If you think you know all about Afghanistan, this story might give you a slightly different look at what is possible in that troubled country. The author became the first woman to cycle across the Panjshir Valley of Afghanistan.
When Shannon Galpin is on a bicycle, she knows where she is going — and how she is going to get there. This is a luxury she does not often have.
So on a sunny Monday in late spring, Galpin is determined to ride. At the start of one of her favorite
paths in Golden, she removes her mountain bike — a custom-made, baby-blue single-speed that she built to accommodate her slender frame two years ago — from the trunk of her Honda Element, adjusts its 29-inch wheels, attaches her water bottle and loops one leg over its slim metal frame. As she looks up, shielding her fair face from the sun, she resembles a child whose parents have buckled her helmet, placed her on a bike and then, slowly, let her go.
But the truth is that Galpin, the 37-year-old founder of the Colorado-based nonprofit Mountain2Mountain, has pushed herself here — against the odds and occasionally against international protocol. In 2010, on a bike that differed from this one only in color, she became the first woman to cycle across the Panjshir
Valley of Afghanistan. There, an activity she performs routinely — with no shifting and no distractions — transformed into a symbol for her outreach efforts.
"I constantly vacillate between realizing I'm making a difference and wondering if I'm ever going to make one," she says. "Sometimes when I get tired, I remind myself that I once rode across the desert. It usually helps."
Looking back — both at the past and over her right shoulder — she releases her grip on the brakes and starts pedaling.